5 Great Takeaways From Several Recent Social Media Studies

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I understand how people might miss the different social media studies that come out every now and again, because it can be so hard to keep up with all of the changes in social media. Social media studies have given me great ideas to improve my own digital marketing strategies, helped me to understand psychology behind social media, and made me a better marketer. I think it can help you as well, so in this article we'll look at several social media studies that will indeed make you a smarter marketer.


The first study reveals that Facebook is more than two times as popular as the next most popular social network.

Did you know that 79% of US adults are on Facebook? That's a huge percentage. The Pew Research Center found that Facebook is still the most popular social media platform, and by a huge margin. The percentage of US adults on Facebook is more than twice the percentage of adults on Instagram. They're at 32%. Pinterest is 31%, LinkedIn 29%, and Twitter is at 24%. So it's also interesting to note that the percentage of adults on Instagram has risen significantly over the last few years as you'd expect. It went from 13% to 32%. And Pinterest has also seen a similar curve with 31% of US adults now using the platform. And that's just 1% less than Instagram. Many would not expect Instagram and Pinterest to be so close. 


I tend to be in the bubble of business, so perhaps I don't have a clear picture of what's happening on Pinterest. The study also talked about user engagement, and it turns out Facebook users are much more engaged than other social media platform users. That's a shock to me personally, but it's definitely still important to know. So 76% of Facebook users use it daily. 55% visit several times a day, and only 22% visit it once per day. This is quite a substantial increase from the 70% reported in 2015. Instagram coming in second has 51% of its users using it daily.


That is a lot of use. And I could see that even though I don't fall into any of these categories, having deleted my personal Facebook account several years ago. 


That's the biggest takeaway from the survey - becoming a smarter marketer, in three words: don't discount Facebook. Facebook is one of the best platforms for marketers to reach their audience if you're willing to pay for that access. Facebook's news feed algorithm seems to be prioritizing videos at the moment, so I'd recommend experimenting with videos, which I've talked about for a few years when I speak to folks. Facebook isn't friendly to organic content coming from businesses so, if you have a budget, Facebook ads is a popular option among marketers too, and I've talked about that as well at past speaking engagements


Personally I don't like Facebook for my own reasons, and I don't have a personal Facebook account, but don't discount Facebook as a professional marketing platform for your clients. I certainly don't.


The second study I read recently finds that over one-third of Instagram users are on Instagram for surveillance.

Yes, I just used the word surveillance.


So let's dive into that one a little bit more. A research team at the University of Alabama performed a study on the motivation for using Instagram, and the results showed that knowledge gathering was the first reason that people use Instagram, closely followed by documentation, and this is... when I say it out loud it sounds creepy, but after analyzing the results, the research team narrowed down the 20 reasons into four main motivators for using Instagram.


Number one was surveillance. People use Instagram to keep up with or gain knowledge about what others such as their friends, family, or strangers are doing. Number two was documentation. Many use Instagram to document moments of their lives. Number three was coolness and popularity. People use Instagram to appear cool and/or to gain popularity. And then number four is creativity. People use Instagram to portray their skills by posting creative posts.


It makes sense when it's presented as a list like that. I feel like most marketers could've thought about this on their own, but seeing it in a proper study is neat to see. Based on these findings when someone chooses to use Instagram, 36% of the why they use Instagram could be because they wanna know what others, you or your brand, are doing, which is great news. 10% is because they want to document moments of their lives. 8% because they wanna be cool and popular, which many people want to do, and 6% because they wanna show off their creativity. The remaining 40% was not accounted for by the study. And I'm sure this varies a lot, but this is just one way to look at how people are using Instagram.


When we're thinking about becoming smarter marketers because of this and other studies, it's understanding the psychology and the habits behind your users that drives learning. When you're posting content and you want your users to share that content with their friends and family, just think about why they're on the platform in the first place. It's definitely not to  share a product update - it's more to share something about themselves, or to do some research, or to look cool. That's a really good takeaway for marketers for understanding the psychology of the average Instagram user.


For example, on Instagram, maybe you can fulfill your followers desire to know more about you and your brand by revealing more about your customers. User generated content can work really well here - there's a lot that you can do with this knowledge.


The third study reveals that 62% of U.S. adults get news on social media.

News - this should not be suprising.


Social has changed the way we consume news a lot instead of watching TV or listening to the radio, or even reading newspapers. I don't know the last time I held a newspaper. People are just using social media instead. This is from another Pew Research Center study, where on top of the 62% of US adults that get news on social media, they found that 18% do so often regularly. What's interesting here is that back in 2012 that 62% number was only 49%.


That is a big increase. And the newspapers didn't see it going until it was too late. The irony of that whole situation still makes me laugh. I feel a little bad about the status and inevitable fate of the newspaper industry because I'm sure there's a lot of people who still read newspapers, so no offense to anybody who enjoys a good newspaper these days. But you have to wonder what those editors and reporters were doing when they completely missed the whole internet thing... anywho...


But what I'm most interested in here is looking at the breakdown for each social media platform. So the researchers found that 44% of the population uses Facebook to get their news. Interestingly, YouTube is the next platform with 10% of the population getting their news from there.


While I watch YouTube for hours a day, I wouldn't have thought of YouTube in this case. I assumed I was not the average viewer since I work from home and have much more freedom about my work situation that most people who have 9-5 jobs outside of the home. So for me, that's kind of a neat one.


The researchers also discovered that Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube users tend to chance upon news when they're doing other things online. They're just scrolling and they find news. But on the other hand, users on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Reddit are slightly more likely to be actively seeking news online. Here's the main takeaway for marketers for this one. In your social media strategies, you can take advantage of this trend by sharing news relevant to your audience on your own social media profiles. Sharing great relevant content can be a wonderful way to establish your brand's authority in the field. When it's relevant for my clients, we see great engagement when we share the latest and most interesting social media news with our followers.


The fourth marketing study discovered that social media is proven to increase consumer loyalty, brand perception, and word of mouth.

Yes, those are all great things to have lots more of.


For this study, researchers investigated how social media interactions with brands influence all of these things. And overall, they found that consumers who engage with their favorite brands on social media have stronger relationships with those brands than those who don't. So they are more likely to have a better evaluation of the brand, stay loyal to the brand. And then of course, they will recommend the brands to others.


Isn't that why we all do what we do (assuming you are a marketer reading this)? My favorite part of this study was that they discovered that this effect is influenced by how humanized the consumer feels about the brand. If they feel connected to a brand like they do with another person, the relationship is stronger than when they view the brand simply as an object.


That's just more reinforcement that we shouldn't all be robots on social media and obviously, that's an easy takeaway for this one, but really talking about humanizing the brand and putting a face to the social media and sharing user generated content and connecting with the audience. It's all about being social on social. It isn't enough to be on social media just to promote your own content. Your followers want to be heard and they don't wanna hear just about you. So engage with your audience and make them feel connected to you. With all my social media client accounts, I try to reply to every single tweet about my client-brands and every single comment on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, and LinkedIn.


The last study I want to bring to your attention is all about how gamification increases social media engagement.

Two researchers in the US studied over 200 Facebook posts by Walmart to determine how gamification can drive more social media interactions. According to this study, gamification is one of the best ways to engage your audience and drive likes, shares, and comments on Facebook. And on the flip side, posts without gamification elements had low levels of engagement.


Thinking about gamification Is interesting, especially to those who actually work on the product side of things, because gamification touches on how everything can overlap a social media marketing. Tons of apps are working on gamification right now. So, why not marketers? 


By the end of this study, the researchers found that there were three successful gamification methods. They were challenge, curiosity, and fantasy. Let's briefly cover each of those. 


For challenge, those posts solicited a challenge and received a high level engagement if the challenge required little efforts. That's very key. So for example, there's a simple challenge to spot the number of differences in two pictures that Walmart posted to their Facebook page and it generated over 9,000 likes and nearly 3,000 comments. And for comparison, when they posted another challenge photo and it required a really great amount of effort, so they were asking fans to post a photo, it had really little engagement and was just generally less well received by fans.


Just think about how simple that idea is and how well it worked.


The second gamification method is curiosity, meaning posts that spark and fulfill curiosity for fans, and these worked really well for Walmart as well. There's one little caveat, though, it only worked if there wasn't a link in the post, which I thought was interesting. The researchers hypothesized that links redirect fans away from the Facebook page. Here's an example of a top curiosity post. The post says, "Boring biscuits? No way! Try this sweet potato biscuit recipe" and it included a photo of a recipe instead of a link. It was shared more than 3500 times. And because fans could view the recipe and engage with the post immediately without having to leave Facebook or the Facebook app, they were obviously more likely to do so.


The last type of gamification is fantasy. Those were posts that provided followers an opportunity to fantasize. So, Walmart might ask their fans, "What would you do with a $7,500 Walmart shopping spree?" The post generated more than 3600 likes, 700 comments, and 150 shares. These types of posts allow fans to express themselves creatively, share a personal narrative, and validate their emotional experiences. The key takeaway here is that understanding the psychology of human interaction will help you better understand why your followers engage with you. Try experimenting with gamification techniques in your own social media posts even beyond Facebook.


Give your followers a challenge, spark curiosity, and create opportunities to fantasize.


So - what do you think of these takeaways? Do you have any high-level strategies or tactics you've learned in the past year you can share with me? Leave a comment and let me know!